Squash — Squashes generally refer to four species of the genus Cucurbita native to the New World, also called marrows depending on variety or the nationality of the speaker. In North America, squash is loosely grouped into summer squash or winter squash, as well as autumn squash (another name is cheese squash) depending on whether they are harvested as immature fruits (summer squash) or mature fruits (autumn squash or winter squash). Gourds are from the same family as squashes. Well known types of squash include the pumpkin and zucchini.
Archaeological evidence suggests that squash may have been first cultivated in Mesoamerica some 8,000 to 10,000 years ago, but may have been independently cultivated elsewhere, albeit later. Squash was one of the “Three Sisters” planted by Native Americans. The Three Sisters were the three main indigenous plants used for agriculture: maize (corn), beans, and squash. These were usually planted together, with the cornstalk providing support for the climbing beans, and shade for the squash. The squash vines provided ground cover to limit weeds. The beans provided nitrogen fixing for all three crops.
The squash fruit is classified as a pepo by botanists, which is a special type of berry with a thick outer wall or rind formed from hypanthium tissue fused to the exocarp; the fleshy interior is composed of mesocarp and endocarp. The pepo, derived from an inferior ovary, is characteristic of the Squash Family (Cucurbitaceae).